- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

It is said they set up Marion Barry again, this time with an elaborate network of undercover operators who pretended to be playing fetch with their drug-sniffing dogs at Buzzard Point in Southwest.
They always set up the ex-mayor. No day in the city is complete unless the various government agencies have a detailed series of strategies designed to embarrass the ex-mayor.
That is a good one. That is an old one.
This is another indication of the "return to normalcy" after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Washington's institutional memory sometimes is short, despite the grim reminders that lead the news each day.
Now there are sightings of Osama bin Laden, who possibly is working alongside Elvis at a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Mich. There also are the usual commentators still looking to comprehend why they hate us so in the Middle East, and there are the Palestinian suicide bombers in a hurry to hook up with their 72 virgins in the afterlife.
But here in the nation's gasbag capital, it is in some ways business as usual, as it was before September 11. There no longer is talk of an epiphany, of understanding what really is important. There no longer is talk of the selfless, thankless work of cops and firefighters.
Instead, there is talk of a U.S. Park Police-inspired conspiracy, of a nefarious plot aimed at undermining the ex-mayor's latest political ambitions, of racial harassment and of trying to keep a good man down.
There is a whole lot of silly talk of dark, unnamed forces, as if the officers with the Park Police have nothing better to do than check out the occupant of an illegally parked Jaguar, as if the ex-mayor qualifies as the law-enforcement jackpot.
It seems nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed.
The bad guys are said to be in our midst, in these so-called "sleeper cells," and they are obsessed with the symbols of this nation, starting with the ones under the protection of the Park Police in Washington.
The bad guys like to blow things up, civilians included, and we have been warned over and over again to expect another attack.
These are serious times, and only serious people are essential. The rest is noise.
Mr. Barry is so yesteryear, the eternal victim of the system from a bygone era, and God bless him if he wins an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
He is a fun-loving guy, whether he is in a restroom at a local airport or taking a break at Buzzard Point, ever worthy of a wisecrack from NBC's Jay Leno. Mr. Barry seemingly is around to provide a light side to a dour city that has adopted the concrete barrier as its official emblem.
Fortunately, Mr. Barry was not charged with wrongdoing at Buzzard Point, and the details of the incident barely resonate, barely matter.
Mr. Barry's supporters suggest that perhaps the Park Police planted a $5 rock of crack cocaine in the vehicle. You never know. Maybe the officers planted a bloody glove in the vehicle as well.
If the officers had a chance to do it all over again, they undoubtedly would have sprinted from the scene as soon as they discovered the identity of the vehicle's occupant. They would have made a pact right then never to mention the incident again, to forget it ever happened and avoided the fallout.
Who needs the aggravation in these uncertain times?
Who needs the protest, the publicity, the threat of legal action, the circus?
All that is the conditioned response to a pre-September 11 mind-set. That is a luxury, a game that mocks a city that is on alert and hurting financially.
The tourism industry is down, the city's defense system is up, and there is the ex-mayor sitting in his vehicle at Buzzard Point.
The latter merely rises to the level of self-parody. It is just another misunderstanding in a political career littered with misunderstandings.
Next time, let the man sit. Let the man contemplate. Let the man park wherever he likes.


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